Committees Finding New Staff Leaders

Posted December 10, 2004 at 6:11pm

Newly installed leadership at the Senate campaign committees is expected to bring a wealth of fresh talent to both political organizations, which are currently in the process of re-staffing their operations from the top down.

Incoming chairmen Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are far from having full staff rosters in place. But Dole has already made one of her most important decisions — choosing an executive director — and Schumer has narrowed his search for a director to two individuals.

Dole, who is heading the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has tapped her top political aide, Mark Stephens, to be the committee’s executive director. In that capacity, Stephens will oversee all day-to-day operations of the committee.

With Stephens now in place other top staffing decisions, such as hiring a political director and communications teams, will fall into place shortly, according to Dole spokesman Brian Nick.

Stephens managed Dole’s 2002 campaign and continues to serve as a senior adviser to her re-election committee.

He has been involved in six successful Senate campaigns in the Tar Heel State, having run races for former North Carolina GOP Sens. Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth and serving as a strategist for Sen.-elect Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) campaign in the 2004 cycle.

Current NRSC Executive Director Jay Timmons, a longtime aide to outgoing chairman George Allen (Va.), is headed to K Street, although he has not yet disclosed where.

Dan Allen, who served two cycles as the NRSC’s communications director, is also departing the committee.

The hiring situation is more fluid at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, where Schumer has narrowed his search for an executive director to two candidates, according to informed party sources.

The choice is between J.B. Poersch, chief of staff to Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), and Karen Olick, chief of staff to Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.).

Mike Lynch, Schumer’s current chief of staff, was the initial favorite for the job but has taken himself out of contention.

Poersch, who most recently ran the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) in Ohio, has been mentioned repeatedly for slots at the party campaign committees in the past.

He previously ran then-Vice President Al Gore’s (D) coordinated campaign effort in Ohio in 2000 and two years earlier served as campaign manager for the unsuccessful Senate bid of then-Rep. Scotty Baesler (D-Ky.).

Olick has several Senate campaigns under her belt as well.

She came to the Senate with Boxer in 1992 after managing the then-Congressman’s successful open-seat race against Los Angeles television and radio personality Bruce Hershensohn (R).

Two years earlier Olick led the campaign of businessman Harry Lonsdale (D) against then-Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.). Lonsdale lost that race by 8 points.

Meanwhile, there has been little movement at the House campaign committees.

At the National Republican Congressional Committee, where Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) will remain as chairman for the 2006 cycle, much of the committee’s top staff is also staying in place.

Executive Director Sally Vastola, Political Director Mike McElwain, Communications Director Carl Forti and Finance Director Tara Snow are all keeping their current positions.

Deputy Executive Director Scott Douglas, a former deputy political director at the NRCC, is departing.

“I’m happy to announce that we will head into the 2006 cycle with the same team that made history by expanding our majority two cycles in a row,” Reynolds said through a spokesman.

Staffing decisions at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee remain up in the air, contingent upon whom Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) picks to head the committee next cycle.

While the DSCC laid off most of its employees and has been working with a skeletal staff since mid-November, all current DCCC staffers are guaranteed paychecks through the end of the year.